Genetic discovery could fight cassava disease

The discovery of a gene that is resistant to the virus that causes the cassava mosaic disease could help the development of disease-resistant cassava varieties and boost food security in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Sub-Saharan Africa, cassava farming is constrained by weeds and viral diseases, particularly the cassava mosaic disease, caused by a group of viruses called geminiviruses. Cassava mosaic disease is responsible for the loss of more than 80 per cent of cassava crops, a staple for over 800 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Researchers say it was farmers in West Africa who noticed that while the majority of their cassava plants in the field had died as a result of the viral infection, a few plants survived.

“Understanding the genetic resources for resistance to geminiviruses is therefore important to secure yields for cassava farmers,” says Wilhelm Gruissem, one of the researchers that made the discovery documented in Nature Communications in July. “With the results, genetic markers which are tightly linked to cassava mosaic disease resistance can now be developed.”


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